The Intentional Dismantling of Democracy
Popular rule was never supposed to be part of the American experience, and Republicans are working overtime to plunge us back into the aristocratic past as their popularity plummets
Over six months have passed since Donald Trump lost his reelection bid to Joe Biden, yet still his faithful cling to fantasies of lawsuits, arcane parliamentary procedures, supernatural plots, and miracles from heaven overturning the results. His flags still hang from their porches, the yard signs remain in the lawns, collecting dust.
In Arizona, supporters are still fighting to “Stop the Steal,” relying on shady methods and biased actors to carry on a recount in order to hand the state’s eleven electoral votes to the disgraced, defeated ex-president. To realize their goal, the Right has turned to conspiracy theorists, agent provocateurs, and been reduced to searching for “bamboo fibers” for proof fake ballots were shipped in from China.
As surreal and absurd as the Arizona gambit is, the far-reaching effects of the recount, as well as the ongoing Big Lie of “Stop The Steal,” has never been the 2020 Election, at least not in totality. Already, Republicans around the country are echoing the conspiracy theories and blatant lies, requesting recounts amid accusations of voter fraud, and doubting even local elections of lesser import. The contagion of weaponized paranoia, partnered with outright disgust with democracy, desire for autonomous, fascistic rule, and a desperate need to return America to its avowedly white supremacist past, is creating a movement to dismantle our democratic institutions permanently.
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At the so-called “Constitutional Convention” of 1787 - where the Constitution of the United States of America was framed despite the framers having exactly zero authority to do so - the concern was how to design the ideal government. America was an anomaly at the time, a new nation establishing itself during the Enlightenment, a moment where representative government and liberal democracy were taking shape. The concern was, now that America had independence, how would it govern itself?
The concerns were many, but at the top of the agenda was appeasing the Southern States and the institution of slavery, as well as what to do with the “leveling spirit.”
That term was spoken by Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who warned the convention of the dangers of “excess democracy.” Gerry wasn’t alone. Roger Sherman of Connecticut advised, “The people immediately should have as little to do as may about government. They lack information and are liable to be misled.”
The construction of our government was intentionally carried out to leave the business of governing to “worthy” individuals: white, wealthy, property and slaveholding men. Slavery was reinforced, the South handed antidemocratic tools that guaranteed electoral dominance - including the Electoral College - and, for their benefit, the insidious Three-Fifths Compromise even counted their slaves toward their population while denying them personhood.
James Madison, the primary framer, created the government, with its system of checks and balance, to quarantine democratic movements, making the Senate a repository for the wealthiest elite in order to keep the House of Representatives, where direct representation created a facsimile of democracy, from gaining much in the way of footing.
From the beginning, Federalists and the ruling elite feared allowing the great unwashed masses any say in how their lives would be ran or how government might function. Power was to be reserved for the wealthy and the white, and America kept strictly their purview.
The modern Republican Party are the inheritors of this legacy, a tarnished embarrassment that runs through the Confederate States of America to generations of American Apartheid, a project that seeks desperately to re-institute the antidemocratic construction of the original Constitution and the racist, classist Founding Fathers. By denying this link, by portraying the GOP as an aberration instead of the continuation of the constant striving for profit and power by white supremacy, hides the actual history of this country.
The Right has defended, or at least tolerated, democracy only so far as it has reflected back to them their wishes. When a leader like Ronald Reagan won in landslides, giving his redistributive-bottom-up economic radicalism a mandate, the Right used the populism to its advantage, but make no mistake: beneath the veneer lay a virulent white supremacist, fascistic ideology that abhorred democracy in totality and saw it only as a tool in consolidating power.
None of this is surprising for those who have paid attention or lack a financial or political reason to believe in altered realities. Efforts to disenfranchise people of color, dominate women and LGBTQ+ populations, to cut out the foundations of reform that have only been realized in the last century, reflect a deep, deep disdain by the moneyed and powerful few for the wishes of their fellow citizens.
The Right believes in hierarchies. That stations in life are relatively concrete and reflecting hereditary worth, namely the worth of white, wealthy men. As their political projects grow more and more unpopular, they will continue to seek the destruction of democratic principles and institutions, seeking viciously to restore the country to the origins with the Founding Fathers, an aristocratic club that designed a nation that suited their interests and fortunes.
An acceptance of “The Big Lie,” which will reverberate through every election in the country before this is over, is only a delusional fantasy in the sense that it is useful framing for a world that is continually rejecting this aristocratic, racist project, and the ability to claim these elections are stolen, that the majority is actually on the side of these ideas, that “others” are either nonexistent or engaging in criminal activities to overwhelm the “majority,” is a mental weapon that will legitimize disenfranchisement, oppression, violence, and, as we have seen in the past, even possible genocide.
This is a de-evolution, an intentional war on progress, democracy, and a fascistic attempt to rewind the clock at any and all costs.